Anxiety is a very normal, human emotion that can make you feel as if you are losing control. Anxiety can be described as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. In its more extreme form, anxiety can contribute to panic attacks. If you’ve had a panic attack then you know what it feels like to think you are losing control, “going crazy”, or maybe even dying. Anxiety is the most common mental health concern in the U.S. Approximately 18 percent of adults and 8 percent of children experience anxiety disorders.
I have heard this comment on numerous occasions, “I don’t need counseling. I’m not crazy.” Folks, it is not about being “crazy”, but it is about being human. Everyone experiences anxiety at various times in life. Our bodies are “wired” for it. Our nervous system is designed to prepare our bodies to react in life-threatening situations. Think about it: If you were being chased by a large animal, you would either run, or fight back. You may have heard this referred to as the “fight or flight response”. Our body reacts by releasing chemicals that prepare our muscles to respond to an emergency by increasing energy levels, speed, strength, heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. You may remember the old TV/movie/comic book character, The Incredible Hulk. He exemplified this response, in an overly exaggerated manner of course. (Please note we don’t turn green when we feel threatened. That would be an entirely different issue.) This fight or flight response is in place to assist in our survival. So, anxiety is not always a bad thing. It can improve performance, and save our lives.
The problem begins when our anxiety becomes so chronic and/or frequent that it interferes with our normal functioning and lifestyle. We begin to rearrange plans to avoid certain situations that make us anxious. This can interfere with our ability to function efficiently. If, for example, you are extremely anxious in social situations, at school, behind the wheel of a car or other common life situations then you are going to have gone out of your way to avoid anxiety. This is the time to seek treatment. There are therapeutic counseling techniques as well as medications that can assist in decreasing the frequency and intensity of a person’s anxiety. Of course, you will feel better once your anxiety decreases, and you will also be able to accomplish things that your anxiety prevented you from accomplishing in your past. This may include, for example, better communication in relationships, more willingness to attend social events, and increased assertiveness regarding your wants and needs. You don’t have to suffer. Spread the word.
This month’s Mental Health Awareness column is written by Tamara Davison, a licensed professional counselor with Scotland Family Counseling Center in Laurinburg. This column invites readers to be open about discussing mental health and to help spread the word about the prevalence of mental health issues in our community.